A Critique of Those Who Want Christ Without the Church – A Meditation on Dorothy Day’s Love of the Church
The video at the bottom is of Archbishop Timothy Dolan speaking on Dorothy Day. It is a clip of a longer sermon you can see here: Archbishop Dolan on Dorothy Day
In the Sermon the Archbishop speaks of Dorothy Day’s love for the Church. He remarks that there are many people today who want Christ without the Church. For Dorothy Day and for us: No can do. Christ is found with his Church: warts and all, sinners and saints, even me, Oh Lord! Jesus Christ was found among sinners, such that it scandalized many. He was crucified between two thieves. He was found in very questionable company. Do you get it? You won’t find Christ by walking away from the company he keeps.
The hatred of the Church is growing in our culture and many of the ring leaders claim to know Christ and think they can find him only in purer air, a room of their own choosing. But Christ is found where he is found. The Pharisees expected to find the Messiah on their terms. But Jesus was found where he was found. He was not from the educated in Jerusalem, but of the peasants in Galilee. He spoke with a Galilean “hick” accent and walked among the poor, the nobodies, the sinners, the uninformed and unenlightened.
Today, the menu is a little different. In Jesus’ time it was a religious aristocracy that sneered at his followers. Today, the world is secular and those who sneer see believers as simple-minded, unscientific, unenlightened and intolerant. And we are sinners to be sure. Some of the charges against us are true. Actual sinners are we. The Church is a hospital for sick people who need a doctor. Some of the other charges of our sinfulness are less deserved: that we are collectively intolerant, hateful, bigoted, etc.
But despite all this, I know by faith that this is where Christ is found. Those who want Jesus without his Church not only seek him in vain, they risk reinventing him altogether. He is found where he is found.
Dorothy Day’s Witness and help – But what of the Church’s imperfections? In the video Archbishop Dolan reminds us: Ecclesia semper reformanda (The Church is always reforming). It’s people like Dorothy Day (and many of you) through whom God works this work. Dorothy Day was very sober about the Church’s imperfections and spoke of them often. She was a prophet and true prophets know how to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable (and we are all in both categories from time to time).
What I most like about Dorothy Day is that I knew she loved the Church and because of that I trust her. I have found that, in order to stretch my boundaries and be truly challenged, I need to trust my teachers and leaders. It’s people I can trust who lead me to stretch my horizons. Knowing that Dorothy Day so loved the Church, the liturgy and the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament makes be trust her judgment. She, like Jesus, was not easily categorized. She will not simply conform to earthly categories for she had heard from heaven.
I’d like to say a little more of Dorothy in weeks to come on the blog for I think she is one who can help get both wings of the Church flying together. There is a tendency for the Church to divide out between the moral issues, and the social issues. But it takes two wings to fly, and Dorothy Day is one of those who show how it can be done. Allow me a little time to get a few thoughts together. And some of you might also point me in the right direction with suggestions.
For today simply this reflection: Dorothy Day loved the Church. And any true reformer of the Church must love her and her Lord and Spouse, Jesus.
Some of my favorite Dorothy Day quotes are:
- Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.
- I firmly believe that our salvation depends on the poor.
- Men are beginning to realize that they are not individuals but persons in society, that man [who is] alone is weak and adrift, that he must seek strength in common action.
- Together with the Works of Mercy, feeding, clothing and sheltering our brothers, we must indoctrinate.
- We are eating while there is famine in the world.
- We cannot build up the idea of the apostolate of the laity without the foundation of the liturgy.
- Tradition! We scarcely know the word anymore. We are afraid to be either proud of our ancestors or ashamed of them. We scorn nobility in name and in fact. We cling to a bourgeois mediocrity….
- I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least
- You will know your vocation by the joy that it brings you. You will know.
- Life itself is a haphazard, untidy, messy affair.
- We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world. We repeat, there is nothing we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as our friend.
- My strength returns to me with my cup of coffee and the reading of the psalms.
- Don’t worry about being effective. Just concentrate on being faithful to the truth.
- Those who cannot see Christ in the poor are atheists indeed.
- Once a priest told us that no one gets up in the pulpit without promulgating a heresy. He was joking, of course, but what I suppose he meant was the truth was so pure, so holy, that it was hard to emphasize one aspect of the truth without underestimating another, that we did not see things as a whole, but through a glass darkly, as St. Paul said.
- The final word is love.
Enjoy this brief reflection by Archbishop Dolan.